|Standard fixtures in any religious procession: vendors and police|
|Procession I can see from the balcony of my house|
Maria Auxiliadora is to Nicaraguans as Maria Guadalupe is to Mexicans. She's supposedly the TRUE Mary. It's interesting to note that while Catholics universally venerate Mary, they don't all venerate the same Mary. There's a lot of arguments between them as far as who is the true Mary.
Catholicism in generally has been interesting to observe here because it's soooo different from the Catholicism I grew up seeing. I'm from a part of Missouri where everyone is either Catholic or Lutheran but I've never seen the Catholics behave as they do here. For instance, practically every other month is dedicated to the Virgin Mary including processions, private parties to altars inside each home, and a random truck that comes around in the morning at 4:30 a.m. blasting an "I love Mary" song. December is especially dedicated to her (yes, her, not Jesus) and her supposed immaculate conception. The celebration is called La Purisima and specifically includes a practice called La Griteria (literally = the screaming). Groups of trucks full of people drive around at dawn and yell out, "There's no greater joy than the conception of Maria." Another practice that's different here is that Catholics have evangelizers too. They are men specifically appointed in the church mainly to visit other Catholics but occasionally they visit other denominations. There's also a branch of the church called Catacuminos who are the supposed teachers of the church; they say it's their job to teach other members about the Bible. What's interesting is that many of them don't believe basic Catholic doctrine such as the veneration of idols or the Trinity but feel it's their job to reform the church. Whew! They've got a big job ahead of them.
It's also been interesting to see how often these supposed religious celebrations here are so tainted. For instance, in the procession I photographed above, one of the band members had a beer in his hand. It's common during Maria Auxiliadora month to have the gay community prepare the Maria altars for the processions. And you should see how the women dress to follow the processions; it's more like they're trolling for men than honoring a saint. After every religious service as the congregation lets out they're greeted with tons of vendors selling everything from idols to food to photographs. It makes me think of Jesus with the vendors in the temple.
Anyway, I just think it's interesting to see that this religion whose name literally means "universal" has become really so divided instead of united as their name suggests.